World Mayor Nominations 2021
François Decoster, Mayor of Saint-Omer, France
The 20/21 World Mayor Prize and Commendations will be conferred on mayors who have been showing leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic and who are now aiming to make their cities more resilient economically, structurally, socially and environmentally. In fact: Stronger | Fairer | Greener. The organisers of the World Mayor Project are looking for mayors who have shown exceptional leadership skills but also, and more importantly, acted at all times with compassion towards those most affected by Covid-19. The pandemic has shown how vulnerable even the richest cities are when confronted with a disaster like Covid-19. Forward-looking city leaders will now begin to re-think how their communities can be better protected against future threats, both natural and man-made.
François Decoster, Mayor of Saint-Omer, France, has been shortlisted for the 2021 World Mayor Prize.
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Mayor of Saint-Omer (France)
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Nominated by A. G. France:
Mon choix se porte sur Monsieur le Maire de Saint Omer, pour différentes raisons:
Très important, c'est un Maire dynamique, très ouvert et qui sait être à l’écoute de ses habitants et de ses commerçants.
Il avait, d’ailleurs, organisé un Grenelle du Commerce et de l'artisanat, et fait en sorte que le petit commerce de centre ville se maintienne et se développe. Durant la Pandémie, il les a soutenus et, par exemple, il a permis et incité les restaurateurs à faire de la vente sur les marchés. Ceci permet, d’un part, d’assurer un service auprès des habitants et d’apporter une aide aux restaurateurs. Toujours, durant la Pandémie, il y a eu un recensement des familles de personnel soignant ou de professionnels impliqués dans la gestion de l’épidémie ayant des enfants scolarisés, ainsi 2 écoles ont pu les accueillir.
Par ailleurs, il a une profonde démarche dans la transition écologique avec, notamment une importante végétalisation de places rénovées. De nombreuses actions sont menées pour économiser l’eau dans la commune : plantes moins gourmandes en eau, recyclage des déchets verts en paillage…..
Nominated by Stef v. M., outside France:
I write in support of the Mayor François Decoster, not as a citizen of his city, neither of his country, but as a European.
I live in Kortrijk, Belgium, I am a CEO and I was from 2010 on the first Director-General of the first cross-border EGTC in Europe : Eurometropolis Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai.
I have worked in my career with hundreds of Mayors, but since I have followed the plans and the actions of Francois Decoster since 7 years now, I can assure you I have never seen a Mayor that incorporates so impressively the most important characteristics a Best Mayor :
Local empathy en accessibility, managing the local affairs with a high performance professionality level to the best private companies, long term visionary, and permanently putting his City in the center of dynamic European and International networks.
• Integrated inclusivity : he reaches out to those other don’t know even their existence of, he invites them in the right way to participate, bit by bit to specific and protective bits of the social life of his city, and later on, when they are ready for it, brings them into the Limelight of the media to use their hurdled way as a fantastic example to those who hesitate to start these kind of Journeys
• Strategic view linking history & future : he understood the forgotten past of his city, he invited the best historians from all over the world to bring it alive again, he created brilliant innovative cross-sector concepts and did find the public and private funds to invest on an international level and to realise it. Moreover- his revolutionary transformation of the wreck of the SNCF-Station is a international example of how to see these kinds of buildings not as a go-through passage for commuters with empty counters and just a few automatic ticket-machines, but as a new innovative and commercial hot-place full of co-working and co-creating spaces, trendy bars-concepts, high-tech visual entertainment and show-places for the local artisans and commercial ambitious.
• The smallest City with the Biggest Impact on the European and Global platform : no City of just 15.000 inhabitants plays such an impressively important pivotal role again in national, European and Global Networks. The still existing big Open Market Place of Saint-Omer was from around the year 1000 the first City where the Anglo-Saxion Cultures did meet the Mediteranian (French/Spanish/Italian) and the German Cultures (Flanders). In whole France, almost no one did know, all heritage was long neglected and Francois Decoster revitalized it not only for the sake of history& tourism but for the sake of the renewed new future for his City : to become again the international junction of all possible cultures and innovative international business creators.
To conclude: no Mayor as François Decoster has been able to play with such a small City in the World Champions League on political level, on business level, on cultural level. Simply impressive.
Nominated by Ludovic M., Saint-Omer:
The lengthy, rich history of Saint Omer has left us with a pleasant city, yet François Decoster has continued to improve the quality of life through a number of activities. These are varied in their offerings and take place all through the year. For the arts, he has introduced the Jazz Festival, which has become known as one of the best in Europe. There is also the ongoing festival of dance as well as a recently started festival for theatre. With regard to the theatrical arts, his push to reopen the Italian Theatre has provided the town with an astounding venue for live performances. His view for the town is that it should be as inclusive as possible, and the various arts festivals offer something for everybody.
Even in the summer, we have had the medieval festival to appeal to amateurs of history. The inclusive approach to the town has also led to our own “Saint Omer Plage”, modelled after Paris Plage. This allows fun and safe recreation for the children whose families may not have the money to go away for vacations. I find it impressive to see how much is done for the town, and for people from all socioeconomic levels. That approach has also led to the town making the local museum (Musee Sandelin) free on Sundays, so that everybody has access to the arts.
And it's not just the town itself where he sees equality of access as important. Saint Omer is surrounded by nature, for example a natural reserve is only 5km away. The local bus system has been routed in such a way that people from the city can easily access the nature reserve, and the bus availability limits the carbon impact on the planet. In addition to the park located within the city, François Decoster tries to make open spaces and greenery as accessible as possible. This is important for the health, mental and physical, of the citizens.
The health of residents are also helped by the promotion of physical activity, for example the “Plan Velo”, as well as the availability of sports, which includes the annual fete de sport. In the last few years, Francois’ team introduced a new road cycling race, and Saint Omer was either the start or finish for the ‘Route des Geants’, which may even inspire some people to become more physically active. Although his bringing the French cycling championships to Saint Omer may have been more inspiring.
Overall, the variety of activities that have been started by Francois Decoster and their availability to all the people of Saint Omer show his concern for the well-being of its citizens. Along with the economic growth that the town has seen, I think Saint Omer has benefited tremendously from his energy, inclusiveness and leadership and I sincerely believe that he sets an exemplary standard for what it means to be a mayor.
Nominated Peter T., France:
It gives me great pleasure to vote wholeheartedly for François Decoster as World Mayor 2021.
Monsieur Decoster is a truly global thinker and actor, and during the Covid situation he has provided all kinds of genuine, compassionate support to the citizens of Saint-Omer, way above and beyond what has been happening in the rest of the country. This is a Mayor who cares.
I first encountered François Decoster some years ago on a youtube broadcast interview, when he declared his intention for Saint-Omer to be a world cultural destination - after the unexpected discovery of the Saint-Omer First Folio Shakespeare amongst a remarkable world-class collection of rare manuscripts in the city library.
Following his successful first mandate which signalled his unlimited ambition for Saint-Omer he was resoundingy reelected by a public who realised that here was a leader who would keep his electoral promises and would make them proud of their ancient city with all its history and the environmental advantages of its extraordinary marais.
A beautiful city already, François Decoster has made it his business to beautify it still further, renovating with taste and flair its squares and public gardens, renovating its spectacular Jesuit Chapel and re-opening its exquisite Italian theatre with an extensive cultural programme of which cities many times larger could be proud.
Saint-Omer is a compact city with a wonderfully welcoming 'audomarois' atmosphere - it boasts dozens of bars and restaurants and attracts patrons from a huge catchment area as well as international tourists... an energy and dynamism is palpable - and it all stems from the energetic inspiration of its vigorous young mayor and his own boundless energy and enthusiasm.
So infectious is all this that I was drawn to the city from New York three years ago to the splashy summer jazz festival - and I have never left!
There are mayors and there are mayors, but there is only one François Decoster. In my opinion he is already World Mayor for me.
Nominated Pascal W., France:
I live in Arques, a town near Saint Omer, for 10 years now. At the beginning, I came here because my wife is born in Saint Omer and we decided to settle in the area. My wife works in Saint Omer so we often go in the center of the town and I discovered little by little the city.
In 2014, when François Decoster became elected, I saw the difference in the administration of the town. A lot of improvements in the city, the Town Hall has been restored, the car traffic in the center has been changed to give priority to pedestrians and bicycles.
During the summer, François Decoster organized some meetings outside between citizens, called "apéro urbains". Different places, different people, a very good idea to meet very interesting people in amazing places. I really appreciated these events.
In 2020, the COVID-19 arrived in the country, with all the restrictions that everybody knows. François Decoster, as director of the town community, was the first to distribute a mask to citizens. When you wonder what happens in the world, when the french government cannot provide any mask, you are happy when you have local support. So thank you very much François Decoster for your prompt action at the beginning of the crisis, when we needed the most.
I give all my support for François Decoster and I hope that he will be the mayor of the year 2021 for his action during the crisis (and it is unfortunately not finished).
Nominated by Kévin B., Saint-Omer:
I want vote for Monsieur François Decoster, here my message :
I arrived in Saint Omer in 2017, and I have recently bought a house in order to settle permanently in Saint-Omer. Initially, I did not plan to buy (whether in Saint-Omer or elsewhere) but the quality of life and the attractiveness of the city won me over. I appreciate this particular mix between the beautiful architecture of the city, the dynamism and its welcome.
On top of this, during the past year, the mayor's energy and reactivity to an entirely unexpected and severe health emergency has helped mitigate the effects of the pandemic of Covid. It is also the speed of action that has surprised many of us in town. The home confinement started just a few days after his election, but we had masks manufacturing and distribution planned very soon after that. In addition, help for elderly citizens, by volunteers, was organized. I think the success of his ideas is shown in the way that other cities in the region have copied his actions.
I would like to say 'thank you' to the entire city council of Saint-Omer as well as to Mr. Decoster for his daily work. Well done and I hope we continue like this!
Nominated by Bruno B., France:
I am not a citizen of Saint Omer but a resident of a nearby town. I have witnessed the renewal, the boom in the influence of this town, and I recognize that they owe a lot to the personality, dynamism and creativity of his mayor François Decoster and his municipal team.
His obvious omnipresence, through the link he maintains with the inhabitants, has adapted more than ever to the time of the pandemic with the use of communication possibilities in social networks, broadcasts, medical conferences, etc. Beyond that, he has multiplied initiatives to maintain social life as much as possible and support the most vulnerable people.
I welcome the opportunity to express my support for a nomination he deserves for the 2021 World Mayor Prize.
Nominated by Annie T., Saint-Omer:
Somebody once said: “In times of crises, leaders aren’t made, they are revealed”. Such is the case of François Decoster . When lockdown was announced on Monday 16 March 2020, one day after his re-election, he tackled this unprecedented situation head on. He organized a cohort of volunteers, and within days Saint-Omer became “a solidarity town” (one of his campaign slogans), where elderly and vulnerable people could rely on the younger generation to get their essential shopping done.
In addition to this reactivity, our Mayor was also proactive, getting free face masks for the whole population and town employees. He ordered over 15 000 face masks for the population and town employees from a local company for when deconfinement would happen, and over the course of two days those masks were distributed for free by volunteers. That action was copied by many towns in the region afterwards.
Extremely concerned about the social and economic fabric of Saint-Omer, François has made sure, throughout this sanitary crisis, that our life remained as ‘normal’ as possible, and that even though events (such as the weekly market and Christmas animations) had to be scaled down, they were maintained nevertheless. He also kept the population informed on the evolution of the situation by means of regular Facebook lives where him and his guests (be it the Prefet or a local Doctor) answered the citizens’ questions.
His latest idea to revive the ties between the citizens and the restaurant and café owners, who have been closed for the past five months, was to organize a ‘marché des restaurateurs’, where restaurants sell their dishes and bars sell their craft beers and cocktails. This market, which has since been transposed in many towns around Pas-de-Calais, has been a real boost to the local economy as well as to the morale of merchants and clients alike.
François’ energy and ambition for Saint-Omer was not born a year ago, when the Covid crisis appeared. It was always already there, but Covid exacerbated it and made it more obvious. Since his first election in 2014, François has always maintained a close relationship with the town’s inhabitants, by creating events that promote proximity with his constituents: ‘urban strolls’ where he and municipal councillors are joined by citizens who point out issues and concerns as they stroll in the town, ‘coffee with the Mayor’ where the same thing happens minus the walking and the pointing, or ‘urban apéro’, a convivial time where food, drinks and ideas are shared between inhabitants and their elected officials. ‘A participatory town’ is not just a campaign slogan, it is a way of governance, a way for citizens to be involved in the life of the city, and neighbourhood councils where created in 2017 for citizens to set up projects for the betterment of their living space.
Improving the citizens’ quality of life has been François’ guideline since his first election. To make the town more beautiful and attractive to its residents, tourists and prospective new comers, a global policy was put in place: home owners in the town center were asked (with a financial incentive) to give their facade a facelift, two of the three plazas were renovated, giving more space to pedestrians and promoting motor-free mobility, and some school yards and public spaces became more green. Closed historical landmarks, like the Italian theater, were restored to their former glory and reopened to the public. The train station was modernised and repurposed as a fab-lab and coworking space, bringing Saint-Omer to the digital age.
His global policy is still a work in progress and his current mandate continues to aim at making Saint-Omer a pleasant place to live, shop, work, have fun and be entertained. Historic buildings continue to be restored, facades to be beautified, cultural programmes to be developed, and downtown neighbourhood commerce to be rejuvenated. I have no doubt that under his leadership Saint-Omer will become the radiant town that he envisions.
I first met François Decoster in 2010, when I moved to Saint-Omer. By then, I had grown disillusioned with French politics and its career politicians, and I had decided never to vote again... until four years later, when François ran for mayor. Not only was I impressed by his ambitious programme for his native town, but also by his grassroots-like approach to municipal life. I then revised my point of view and voted for him, a decision I have never regretted since.
Nominated by Yves F., France:
In English: It is with great pleasure that I support the candidacy of François Decoster. I am not really surprised by this nomination with regard to the energy he uses to promote the strengths of his municipality and its territory, in terms of history, heritage, environment or digital.
He constantly strives to maintain a link with each of his constituents. And for that, he does not spare the communications links: neighbourhood committee, reception of new arrivals, walk-diagnosis in the heart of each neighbourhood, application and social networks, mayor's cafe etc ...
The strength that emanates from François Decoster is based above all on the strength of the collective which he translates by the term "collective intelligence" which is not an empty word.
It would be a great source of pride for François Decoster but also for his inhabitants to see him honored for the immense work he does for the benefit of his city and its inhabitants!
En français: C’est avec grand plaisir que je soutiens la candidature de François Decoster. Je ne suis pas vraiment surpris de cette nomination au regard de l’énergie qu’il met en oeuvre pour promouvoir les atouts de sa commune et son territoire tant sur le plan historique, patrimonial, environnemental ou digital.
Il a constamment le souci d’entretenir le lien avec chacun de ses mandants. Et pour cela, il ne ménage pas les liens de communications : comité de quartier, accueil des nouveaux arrivants, promenade-diagnostic au coeur de chaque quartier, application et réseaux sociaux, café du maire etc...
La force qui émane de François Decoster s’appuie avant tout sur la force du collectif qu’il traduit par le terme “intelligence collective” qui n’est pas un vain mot.
Ce serait une grande fierté pour François Decoster mais aussi pour ses habitants de le voir honorer pour l’immense travail qu’il réalise au profit de sa ville et de ses habitants!
Nominated by Sophie M., Saint-Omer
I am writing to confirm my vote for Mayor Decoster of Saint Omer as World Mayor 2021.
I am a British National and I have lived in Saint Omer for 7.5 years. Mayor Decoster is an exceptional Mayor and has done a huge amount for the town and the people in it. I have seen the evolution over the years thanks to his tireless work and it has meant that myself and many other foreign nationals have wanted to call Saint Omer our new home! He works extremely hard to secure national and European funding to ensure the thriving cultural, infrastructure, attractiveness and safety of our town.
Many excellent initiatives have been put in place during the COVID pandemic to ensure not only that the people of Saint Omer are safe, but also that we can continue to benefit from the wealth of gastronomic and cultural advantages that this town has to offer.
I work in European funding and I know how difficult and competitive it is, yet Mayor Decoster has ensured that Saint Omer secure funding for a beautiful “Maison du Marais”, the renovation of the historical train station and many other initiatives. His great work has attracted many tourists and new ventures to the town, including recently the winner of France’s Top Chef to open a new restaurant.
He is a true European citizen that cares about the people in this town, their wellbeing and their happiness! I sincerely hope that he will be the winner of this prestigious award.
Nominated by Antoine D., Saint Omer:
I live in Saint Omer for a while, and I think Francois Decoster is the best mayor ever.
He is daily implicated with the habitants and more since Covid 19 crisis is occurred. More over his initiative spirit for people who live in Saint Omer is very appreciable.
Nominated by Paul T., Saint-Omer:
As an unabashed immigrant, I have lived in 5 different countries, and within France I have lived in 4 other cities . The last few years in Saint Omer, during which Francois Decoster has been mayor, have only reinforced my feelings for this city. I can certainly attribute a part of that to the leadership that the city currently has, especially in the trying times of the past 12 months.
Even during his 1st campaign, which centred around the theme of ‘audacity’, we could see that his vision was long term and global: Projects should be seen as components that lead to a unified whole, and that we need to see how any project fits into the future. This has been reflected in projects that aim not just to preserve in situ the patrimony of the town, but also to repurpose the existing infrastructure and adapt it to the 21st century. He sees that we can respect our history, especially architectural, while living in the present and adapting to the needs of the current generation. Perhaps the finest example of this has been the renovation and re-opening of the train station, which has also been repurposed into a co-working space. In terms of the Covid-19 crisis, when many of us have gone to remote working, a co-working space fills the need to have a separate work space available (some apartments are rather small) as well as provide a space in which the people can also maintain some level of social connection with others who are working remotely. The social and professional utility of the Station demonstrates his proactive, global approach.
Specific to the town’s reaction to the Covid crisis, his non-stop activity and engagement with the people has been impressive. Just after the confinement was announced, he put out a call to volunteers to do the shopping for our elderly citizens. My own pass was signed just a week after the home confinement was announced and I received contact details of elderly folks who had requested help. While the proactive aspects, such as the Station, are essential to long-term development, the speed of his reactivity, when confronted with this current, on-going crisis, has demonstrated yet again his leadership capacity.
In a leadership position, there is also the reality that novel situations may require a response that has not been pre-programmed, that unforeseen complications preclude a reference to past courses of action. If anything, the current pandemic fits into this scenario. With regard to this, I recall a phrase that I learned a long time ago: Improvise, adapt and overcome. The steps taken in the past year have been an exemplary demonstration of how a mayor can fulfil their leadership role in such a fashion. Specifically, in order to overcome a shortage of face masks, François contacted a number of people in the area who might have the capacity to make the masks, and oversaw the development of a network of not just manufacturers but also delivery of the masks to commerce in the city as well as managing the distribution to the entire population (by the way, I volunteered for that too, it’s hard to resist his enthusiastic recruitment appeal).
At the same time, he successfully negotiated a limited re-opening of our weekly market. Again, this comes back to the theme of improvise and adapt. His plan had the city police controlling the entry to the market such that there was sufficient space between people, as well as providing hand disinfectant to all those entering and ensuring that masks were worn properly. This allowed us to maintain our normal course of shopping, (albeit in a limited manner) allowed the local farmers and butchers, etc. to continue to make a living as well as keeping alive the social connections that are vital to our lives. While we cannot entirely disregard the effects, his actions have helped to reduce the adverse impacts of the pandemic.
His efforts to moderate the negative impacts of the pandemic are inextricably linked to his life here. He was born and raised in Saint Omer, and as such he maintains close ties all through the town. Since his election in 2014, he has striven to maintain close links and communicate, on a personal level , with all of the citizens of Saint Omer. Initially, this was through ‘balades urbaines’, during which he would just stroll through town and talk to anybody and everybody, getting to know the people and what was important to them. And there was also apero urbain, when he encouraged people to just get together (in 1 spot) on a Friday evening, bring a drink and snack to share and just get to know other people in town, i.e. get strangers talking to each other and further reinforce the social connections between ALL the citizens of Saint Omer. I have been somewhat more peripatetic than most people and this was the first time I have seen a mayor so engaged in the lives of the citizens and actually reaching out to interact with the broadest range of people. He has not confined himself, as is the wont of most politicians , to those with whom he is most comfortable. While Covid has changed the manner of interaction, he is still often available on Facebook chats, taking questions from all viewers.
François also thinks globally. Our world is shrinking. He sees that Saint Omer is 1 component of a larger region (Hauts de France) which is part of the nation and thus extends to the entire European Community. He understands implicitly that by working together, across borders, we can strengthen each other, and that international relations among citizens, and even among smaller cities, is not something that is solely bequeathed to the national government. His international outreach is something that will benefit all of us in the long term. By participating in the EU’s regional projects planning as well as assigning city councillors to international development with specific cities, he further demonstrates that he is not just about talking, that actions matter more than words.
My wife and I have both been rather peregrine over the years. But in Saint Omer, we have found a home. The dynamism, the energy and the open-mindedness that François brings to his role as mayor has been an aspect that we have found encouraging and, quiet honestly, a refreshing change from so many mayors we have known. Is there a perfect mayor? Probably nowhere in this galaxy. But Francois Decoster is the right person at the right time for Saint Omer. His vision, his openness and his energy has been an incomparable asset for this city.
When we discuss the role that Francois has played in the city during the current pandemic, we should look to the totality of actions that were instigated over his tenure and which have contributed to ameliorating the impact of the crisis on our daily lives. Whether it was the vision to develop “La Station” , installing the passerelle pedestrian pathway over the canal in order to better link the Station to the town centre or renovation of the town squares, these are all actions that have improved the town and laid the foundation for a community which could adapt to the crisis, as have the foundations and infrastructure in place to better support people. When you couple the proactivity and global vision with his dynamism and reactivity, then it is clear that Francois Decoster sets a standard for leadership that few other politicians can match. Saint Omer is exceedingly fortunate to have a mayor such as him.
Nominated by Alexandre de B., Saint Omer:
François Decoster mayor of Saint Omer is an amazing mayor who during the Covid pandemic was the first one to distribute free masks to protect the inhabitants of Saint Omer against the spread of the deadly virus as early as March 2020 when masks were difficult to find in France and he was the first one to impose distancing and have all his staff comforting the people and giving them guidance as a father or a brother figure... Saint Omer under his leadership and vision is becoming a green city and he has put the accent on embellishment and restoration of the historical squares, garden and old buildings as well as the restoration of Saint Denis church a 11th century parish which needs to be salvaged and is the repository of amazing religious treasures... Saint Omer is a city where safety, cleanliness and culture are also very important and it is his priority. Despite the terrible burden of the Covid quarantine, the Mayor tried to save the economy of his city and Saint Omer is a city where you feel at home
Nominated by Dorian L., France:
I am writing to let you know that I fully support the nomination of François Decoster for your award.
I have known François for over 20 years as we studied together at the College of Europe in Bruges. I have been recently elected as an official in my town in France (800 km) but unfortunately in the minority.
I have been inspired by many actions François Decoster took in order to make the confinement period easier for his fellow inhabitants. I am referring to initiatives about distributing masks, making sure schooling was maintained and entrepreneurs given any necessary help.
I was inspired by some concise actions and hardly lobbied my fellow elected officials in my town. Unfortunately they were reluctant and kept claiming that it wasn't feasible. I used Saint-Omer as an example and invited them to check it out.
I therefore hugely recommend Mr. Decoster's nomination.
Nominated by Matthieu L, France:
Monsieur Decoster a depuis son élection en 2014 changé positivement et durablement la vie des Audomarois.
Porteur de projets ambitieux comme la réfection du centre ville, l'embellissement de la commune en luttant contre les incivilités, la redynamisation par la transformation du quartier de la gare, il n'oublie cependant pas de rester proche des Audomarois par le biais de ballades urbaines, de cafés du maire .... Le contexte sanitaire ne permettant pas cette proximité habituelle, il ne manque pas une occasion de rester proche de ses habitants via les réseaux sociaux notamment.
En tant que Conseiller Municipal d'une ville voisine de Saint-Omer, j'appuie pleinement sa candidature au poste de "meilleur maire"
Nominated by M. L. Saint-Omer:
I think François Decoster is the best mayor in the world. He was president of the CAPSO and added many bus lines. The bus colors are fantastic. He managed the covid19 crisis with ease and he was responsible. He didn't hesitate to make the mask obligatory in the Rue de Dunkerque, which was a great decision and limited the impact of covid19. He stopped the fair from happening which is great because less people were infected. He is the best mayor. Everyone knows him and likes him.
Nominated by L. Z., Saint-Omer:
Hi ! I Think François Decoster really is the best because he managed the Covid19 crisis very well and he was president of the CAPSO. He is very polite and always smiling. A lot of adults know him and my mom told me he's the best mayor ! Thanks for reading.
Nominated by Anne L., France:
François DECOSTER est un travailleur inlassable. Il apporte dynamisme créativité innovation et pragmatisme sur l’audomarois. Il sait créer les conditions d’accueil que mérite chaque touriste et habitant de st Omer. Il impulse une dynamique de partenariat entre les pays. Ses efforts associés aux partenaires avec qui il travaille contribuent au rayonnement de la région Hauts de France. Bravo à lui, ses equips.
Nominated by Danny de K., outside France:
Since 2012 I have been an Individual Member and Coordinator for Flanders. Since then I have also followed the ins and outs of the European section in both the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions. I kept coming to the conclusion that Mr. Mayor François Decoster fulfills his duty as a representative of the people of Saint-Omer with dedication and a sense of responsibility. Even though I have Mr. Never met Decoster personally, the CoR reports prove very well that he is a person who knows what he is doing, so I would like to express my support and nominate him as the Best Mayor of the World.
Nominated by Jasna G., outside France:
Saint-Omer Mayor François Decoster is one of the mayors who sees beyond the borders of his city and his country. He works in the way of taking experiences on local level (bad and good) to the European level, trying to find solutions not just for his city but for all. He is good when it comes to solving crises. That's how he dealt with migrant crises and found a solutions how can city help to migrants and how to make it works within local community. And the same is now with Corona crises. He is always a great supporter in Committee of the Regions (EU) of green economy, environmental friendly politics. He is a politician who tries to find common solutions/ways between different political parties specially when it comes to main EU topics.
Nominated by Frederic F., outside France
It is with great pleasure that I would like to nominate François Decoster, Mayor of Saint-Omer, France, for the 20/21 World Mayor award.
François Decoster has been Mayor of Saint-Omer since 2014 and was convincingly re-elected in June of this year while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, with 65% of the vote. During this pandemic he led by example in taking care for his citizens while managing all the day to day affairs, and under his leadership Saint-Omer is a stronger, fairer and greener city.
He made his city stronger providing his citizens with adequate information, help and care. During the pandemic he hosted, organized or oversaw several citizen initiatives. To ensure that citizens would be able to adapt to the confinement, he hosted Facebook live sessions during which citizens could ask questions, and repeated this exercise in light of the confinement.
He was also a Mayor for all his citizens, ensuring fairness by taking measures that helped all population groups. He crafted a plan to accompany businesses and help entrepreneurs in economic difficulty with the Emergency Fund, providing €400,000 for small business and the self-employed, with, among other measures, also scrapping the annual terrace tax for 2020.
He took the initiative to supply each and every one of his citizens ˆ even the ones which are not on the electoral rolls or aren’t taken into account in the census - with a free face mask, announcing this in mid-April and delivering on this promise in May. To take care of the elderly, he put in place a service of food deliveries at home and had the most vulnerable called on a regular basis to see whether they needed any assistance. He also kept in place a food market during the pandemic as long as possible as a supply point, with strict security measures, to make necessities available during a period when regular shops were affected.
Also his municipal staff that helped out during the crisis were not forgotten: many, including those who were mobilized whole days and outside normal working hours to ensure continuity of services and help, were all awarded a bonus to show appreciation for their efforts under difficult circumstances. Working on an inclusive city he also supports young refugees, as his town was the only town in that region of France with a center for underage refugees, integrating them through sports such as cricket, to fight many preconceptions, as featured in the New York Times. He also works tirelessly to integrate his town and region with surrounding regions in other countries such as in Flanders, Belgium, signing cooperation agreements in terms of culture and employment.
In addition, to bring his city back in shape after this pandemic and ensure its bright future, he launched the local recovery plan or "Plan de Relance", showing energy and commitment to this cause, with an emphasis on three main objectives: ecological transition, digital developments and the upgrade of local heritage. As examples for this last field, Decoster was the driving force for the reopening after important renewal works of the authentic Italian theatre after having been unused for 45 years, and transforming the train station into "La Station", a co-working and innovative centre with a station in it, after it was closed in 2011 for security reasons, thereby giving it a successful second life.
Keeping his city Green also proved to be a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Waste facilities were temporarily closed, trash collection via yellow bags were put to the disposal of people in shops. He also oversaw the creation of a forum of associations for a more ecological and inclusive transition by citizens for the actions already underway, while also carrying out energy audits for municipal buildings and measuring carbon impacts.
Finally, François Decoster also works and thinks as a real European, bringing people together. One of his ideas he launched as member of the European Committee of the Regions and which he spearheaded in his home region in France is that of having "European Correspondents", a network of volunteer correspondents who are all members of local municipal councils. They would bring Europe closer to the citizens and strengthen the links between the local level and the EU, integrating them more by disseminating correct and useful information about the European Union and making citizens aware of opportunities that could benefit them.
In conclusion, given all this, it is with admiration and utmost respect I put François Decoster up as potential World Mayor.
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